In January of 2020 I wrote about how the 10-year mark after my husband’s death was more than just an anniversary date. Fast forward to almost two years later and I am finally starting to piece together what moving forward and away from the grief looks like for me. This is just my own words and my own feelings as I try to walk this ever-changing and ever-moving road we call grief.

This coming May it will be 13 years since I lost Lance, my husband and the father of our daughter. In those years I have gone from being a young widow and solo-parenting mother of 25 to a seasoned widow and still solo-parenting mom. I have gone from not showing emotions or talking about the loss, to being open about the loss and working on showing the emotions that come with it.

I am by nature a happy person and it takes me a while to process. Normally, I believe that is a good thing, but when It comes to dealing with a sudden and unexpected loss, that came back to bite me. It put me on a course that would take years of support from professionals, family, close friends, and Threads of Life to get me to where I am today.

I spent the first seven years tucking all those confusing thoughts and emotions away because I had a child who needed me, and I was going to do everything I could to make things “normal” for her and for me, even if she did not have her dad and I did not have my husband. In my mind, I was doing an amazing job, but let’s be honest – I was a mess even if I was not showing it on the outside. I thought I had this ‘managing grief’ thing down but oh, those thoughts and feelings kept coming back when I allowed myself to just sit. I did not know how to voice them. Spending the last four-plus years learning how to manage those thoughts and feelings and use them for the better has been a complete game changer.

As I move further along my journey, I have started to notice a shift in my thought process, almost like it is becoming less about the grief and more about who I am as a person and what I am hoping to accomplish. I have worked so hard to work through the grief and pain and I really like who I am now. I am in a lot better place mentally and emotionally. So, the big question is ‘Who am I away from the grief?’ How can I walk this road moving forward, reconciling Lance’s legacy and my desire to be someone besides a widow and a single/solo parenting mother, all the while balancing between moving forward and staying put for my daughter and her own complicated grief journey. 

I must be honest – I have no idea of the answer to that question now. But I can talk on the overwhelming emotions that have come from asking it! I feel excitement for the future even if I am not sure what it looks like. I’m nervous because people have ideas of how someone who is grieving should or should not act. I am a people pleaser by nature and while I am certainly better at not caring so much, sometimes it shows its ugly head. What if people do not support this next chapter for me? I’m worried too, and filled with questions: What if I forget? What if I am wrong and I completely mess up? Is it wrong of me to be happy and at peace?

The next huge emotion – one I do not like to acknowledge let alone talk about – is resentment. If Lance hadn’t died on the job, I wouldn’t be having to ask myself who I am away from the grief. I would not have had to do all the hard work of dealing with grief and solo parenting. I would not be on my own walking this road and making plans and decisions on my own. And there are days that I resent being put in this place. But without the heartbreak and loss I would not be the person I am now. I would not be surer of me and who I am.

My last emotion I want to mention is happiness or contentment. I mentioned I am happy and easy going by nature, but this one goes deeper for me. I have learned to be happy and content with who I am now. I have such a desire to be more than who I have been. I have such a heart for others and helping them in their own grief walk. I am truly so blessed to have a lot of support and love and a huge cheering section. I am the happiest and healthiest mentally I have been since I started this journey almost 13 years ago. I still struggle with negative thoughts and emotions, but I make a choice every single day to be happy and thankful even when I do not feel like it.

At the end of the day, this has been my journey I had to walk alone. I had to learn to live with the emotions but not to have them consume my life.

So who am I away from the grief? I am a mother, and that job is one I take to heart. She is my #1 priority and the reason I have worked so hard to be where I am today. I am a daughter, sister, and friend to those who matter the most. And I am a Volunteer Family Guide with Threads of Life. I am also a family spokesperson with Threads of Life – two jobs I am so passionate about. Threads of Life has completely changed me and helped me be who I am today. The narrative changes when you have like-minded people who can relate and understand the journey you are walking. I have become someone who can say “yes, me too, I can relate and how can I love and support you in your own grief walk?”

We could all use a little more empathy and understanding in our world today. Without it we are not going to see changes take place whether that is in our own lives or in others’ lives. I have been working on being more of an active listener and less time talking for the sake of talking.

Who am I away from the grief? I don’t have all the answers because this is all very fresh but I can say I am really liking who I am becoming and I’m excited to see how I can bridge these two worlds together. How can I keep Lance’s memory alive while paving a new path for myself and my daughter? It is going to be messy, uncomfortable, and overwhelming at times. But it is also going to be exciting, challenging, and promising. With change comes growth and with growth comes a new perspective on life. So, friends, I hope this piece can help you if you are like me, trying to figure out who you are away from the grief. No two walks are the same and only you can answer that question. For me, there is so much more to this story. For now, I need to sit in this weird corridor between who I was in the midst of the grief and who I am away from it. I know this is just the beginning of this quest.

Rebecca Orr
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